Daily 49er

In case you missed the Airshow…

The Red Bull Flugtag brings engineers and their creative hilarity from all throughout the west to Long Beach.

Taylor Bell and Virginia Rangel

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The Red Bull Flugtag drew masses from all over California to Downtown Long Beach on Saturday, when contestants from Alaska to Hawaii launched their comically designed aircrafts into Rainbow Harbor.

Since 1992, when Red Bull held its first Flugtag in Vienna, Austria, teams of five have been assembling each year to build a craft that would get air, laughs or both. The Flugtag came to the U.S. in 2002, and it first came to Long Beach in 2010, according to the Red Bull website. This is its second year in Long Beach, one of the five locations of this year’s event.

“Flugtag” is German for “flight day” or “airshow.” The “hangars,” or sectioned-off areas in the plaza next to the harbor, opened at 10 a.m. Spectators admired the comical structures, some plane-like and some simply outrageous in the form of pyramids or pizzas. Fans posed for pictures with their favorite teams and crafts that would fly for their first and last time.

Out of a pool of hundreds of applicants, 29 teams were selected to compete in the Flugtag based upon their application and follow-up interviews. The panel of judges, which this year included “Workaholics” Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine and Anders Helm, was looking at each team’s creativity, showmanship and the distance their aircraft achieved.

The wingspan of the craft could be no longer than 28 feet wide and had to be created by a team of five. Including the “pilot,” the flying machine had to weigh less than 400 pounds, a benefit for any team pushing the unit off the deck with as high a velocity as possible for maximum distance.

Each pilot wore a life vest and helmet, even though every member of each team jumped off the deck after their craft flew — or dove, rather — into the water.
Among the teams was Cal State Long Beach’s Hispanic Society for Professional Engineers (HSPE). Josh Beardsley, a member of the HSPE, said the team was excited for the flight, despite their grim Dia de los Muertos-inspired makeup.

Their aircraft, in the model of a fiery bird, was based off of the HSPE’s Southwest region mascot, the phoenix.

“As big as it is and kind of bulky, we did do a lot of calculations,” Beardsley said. “A pilot came out of nowhere and told us point blank that it should fly, so it’s based off the wind and a little bit of luck.”

Seattle University MEGR was also invited to the Flugtag by a Red Bull representative from their school, who sent them a package with duct tape and instructions on getting started, according to team member Trevor Umbenetti. Their structure, fashioned out of PVC pipe, wood and duct tape, took a month and a half to complete, as they encountered many structural problems and redesigns.

Spectators flooded around Lions Lighthouse for Sight, onto the grass and down onto the beach during the event. Some rested their feet in the water as they sat on the rocks trying to get the best view possible.

Some of the most extreme of extreme sports were present, including two sky divers who landed perfectly on the launch ramp after flipping and spinning all the way down.
“We didn’t think you we’re gonna land,” a Red Bull Flugtag announcer said after the skydivers landed.

“Yeah, we got this,” one of the skydivers replied, without a hint of adrenaline in his voice:

Some contestants in the Flugtag were nervous, especially those who would be launched off the 31-foot platform while riding their aircraft into the deep blue.
“I’m a little nervous but more stoked and pumped,” Kristy Davis of team Game of Throwns said.

While other groups were formed from colleges or organizations, Game of Throwns was a group of friends that loved the TV show, Red Bull and aviation.

The U.S. record to beat was 210 feet, according to the Red Bull rules and regulations. Not all teams were trying for air, though, as much as they were seeking attention and laughs.

Before launching their crafts off of the deck, teams each performed a  dance or skit. University of California, Santa Barbara’s Belligerent Bufflebros performed a ritual to their giant bull while The Illuminaughty went from cloaked to un-clothed.

While some of the teams came from Northern California and even off the coast, the top five contenders for People’s Choice award were California natives. The HSPE came in third place, while beer-enthusiasts Red, White and Brew! won the crowd over with an acrobatic pre-flight performance and a patriotic plane modeled after a Bald Eagle.

The Oakley Factory pilots of Foothill Ranch, Calif., won both third place for distance and second place for People’s Choice with their plane modeled after a deep sea fish.

The Legendary Flying Machine built a practical plane modeled after Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, which had its first flight in Long Beach, according to the team named in honor of Legends Sports Bar. The Legendary Flying Machine flew 108 feet into second place for distance.

The Chicken Whisperers, a team of aerospace engineers from San Francisco, beat not only the U.S. record but also the world record placed in Germany last year, flying their aircraft 258 feet. The aircraft was stopped only by a boat moored across the harbor.

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